By Jessie Woolley-Wilson on June 21st, 2013
The United States’ approach to education has been changing rapidly over the past few years, and the need to address 21st century learning appears to be one of the driving forces. Broadly speaking, 21st century learning focuses on the idea that students need to be prepared to meet the challenges they will face in college and/or their careers after graduating from high school. This can mean everything from being able to compete in an increasingly globalized society to having the ability to use technology effectively and efficiently. Teachers are employing a number of tactics to accomplish this task, from personalized learning to the use of adaptive learning programs.
Admittedly, the concept is pretty broad. After all, how can teachers possibly prepare students to confront all of the challenges they will face in adulthood? Nevertheless, school districts are making the shift to 21st century classrooms and instruction in an effort to encourage students to engage in their learning, think critically, build knowledge and be able to apply what they’ve learned. It all starts in elementary school, and the approach that educators take to instill 21st century skills in young students looks slightly different than what is needed for those in high school.
Adaptive learning programs
While it’s been acknowledged for some time that students have varying levels of academic abilities and learn best in different ways and at different paces, it’s taken awhile for education to catch up. Many school districts are turning to adaptive learning programs to teach their students 21st century skills because they can tailor instruction to each individual student, something which is physically impossible for a teacher responsible for 30-some students to do alone. In elementary schools, teachers most often implement adaptive learning programs as a part of a rotational model, having students participate in stations, one of which involves using the technology.
The skills and knowledge that young students develop in elementary school provide a foundation for learning for the rest of their lives, so it’s important that instruction in the core subject areas doesn’t fall by the wayside. With 21st century learning, the difference is that elementary school educators are taking a multimedia approach to instruction to get students excited about learning this core content. It’s all about encouraging creativity and innovation.
The modern approach to instruction also means that the role of teachers is shifting in the classroom, even within elementary schools. Rather than asking young students to sit quietly while new concepts are explained to them, educators are increasingly taking on the role of the facilitator, connecting kids to new information and encouraging them to explore and think critically.
Technology can also help facilitate students’ understanding of our increasingly globalized world by helping them connect with other young kids around the globe. Through Skype, for example, elementary math students in the United States can video chat with their counterparts in China or Germany to talk about what they’re learning, how their lives differ, and how they are the same.
Like this blog? Learn more about 21st century learning in our Adaptive Learning, White Paper.